Why Should I Care?
Why should you care whether or not some random Jewish man came back to life 2000 years ago in an average city in a backwater Roman province? Fair question — lets consider some answers.
But it’s inspiring, so who cares if its true?
Florida State University Philosopher of Science Michael Ruse recently declared that it is “totally unimportant” that the resurrection of Jesus is a fact or not. “I think that what is important is that those disciples on the third day, who were downcast, and had seen this man put to death in the most horrible way, suddenly said ‘our creator lives!’”
For Ruse, the resurrection of Jesus was at first only a feeling of inspiration, or closure, or something or other, that inspired Jesus’ closest followers to keep on going after a horrific setback. It is the religious inspiration or encouragement that matters in religious stories, not whether such stories are true.
Because it matters whether or not the gun is loaded
But surely Ruse’s brush-off is foolish. Consider C.S. Lewis’ parody of this sort of objection. In The Great Divorce, a rather intellectual occupant of Hell (an Anglican Bishop, it is suggested) is pressed on his beliefs about God in an effort to persuade him to choose heaven over his unbelief and rebellion:
“Do you not even believe that He exists?”
“Exists? What does Existence mean? You will keep on implying some sort of static, ready made reality which is, so to speak, “there”, and to which our minds have simply to conform. These great mysteries cannot be approached in that way. If there were such a thing…quite frankly, I should not be interested in it. It would be of no religious significance…”
Well, that is ridiculous, of course. If the God described in the Bible exists, then that is the most fundamental and important fact of all existence. Thinking otherwise is like playing Russian Roulette and believing the whether or not the gun is loaded is of no significance. Now, such a fact may be existentially insignificant, but only if we cannot know whether the gun is loaded or not. But what if we can know? That knowledge would make all the difference in how we approach the game. The same with such all-important claims as the existence of God and the Resurrection of Jesus.
Because it validates Jesus’ claims about Himself and us
The claims of Jesus of Nazareth were much closer to today’s claims of moral responsibility of certain groups of people than mere historical or scientific facts. In other words, I can go about my life and not care whether dark matter is a thing, or whether Brutus stabbed Julius Caesar; those are indeed mere facts. I am so far removed from them (even if they ultimately influence me via physical forces or historical developments) that their truth or falsehood makes almost no difference to my daily life.
However, when someone makes a moral claim on me — say, when they insist that because I am of the same race and gender which has oppressed other races and genders in the past therefore I am morally obligated to fundamentally alter my life around acts of reparation— well, now I must stop and consider whether such claims are valid. I don’t want to be on the wrong side of such a moral obligation.
Jesus made some very significant moral claims that he evidently believed apply to all people at all times, particularly regarding how we are to think of him. If he rose from the dead in real life, then those claims are vindicated and therefore apply to you and me.
The Resurrection fundamentally affects every area of human existence
Lots of facts are either scientific, (i.e., about nature), historical, or moral. There aren’t many claims, however, which if true profoundly affect our understanding of all of nature (the nature of nature?), of history, and of morality. The claim that Jesus of Nazareth walked out of his grave a couple thousand years ago is one of those claims — perhaps the most important one:
Here is where many scientifically minded agnostic folks might be tempted to shout me down; “what has this religious claim to do with science?” Simple: if Jesus of Nazareth came back to life after being a corpse for a couple days, then that fact has fundamental implications for the nature of the universe vis a vis the existence of God, especially the God talked about in Christian religious teachings. And thus…
If the Resurrection really happened it explains the rise of the most influential moral and ethical framework in the history of humankind, and validates its central claims about the nature of God and the nature, purpose, an destiny of man.
If Jesus really was raised from the dead around 33 AD, then his specific claims to have ultimate moral authority over every human life have been vindicated, and we should take with deadly seriousness the claims in the Bible about the state of our lives before a morally perfect, all-powerful God. Also, we can rejoice that He has both solved the problems of evil, pain, suffering and death and invites you and I into that absolutely effective solution— into a life of existential abundance, joy, and purpose, which will last forever.
So, the Resurrection matters, and you need to know if its true
So, far from being just a fact of history, or science, or religion — or some fluffy inspirational ’spiritual’ story — the Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth is arguably the most significant fact in all of history, nature, and human existence. It does matter to you and I, immeasurably.
So how do we determine whether or not we should believe that Jesus was raised from the dead? We examine the evidence. In the next post we examine the conversion of James, Jesus’ brother.
1. PremierUnbelievable, “Michael Ruse vs John Lennox • Science, Faith, and the Evidence for God,” YouTube, September 07, 2018, , accessed October 12, 2018, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yrnXdzQRISM&t=2232s.
2. C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce, A Dream (New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 2001), 42. Emphasis mine.